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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Viewpoint: Russia unready for yobs
A man carries a teenage fan injured in the violence
Two people died and scores were injured in the riot

The Moscow city authorities say that they were unprepared for the riot which erupted on Sunday, following Russia's defeat by Japan in the World Cup, but the warning signs have been evident for some time.


To arrange such an event without ensuring proper safety measures are in place is simply irresponsible

The incident highlights a number of factors about post-Soviet Russia.

Above all, it underlines the breakdown in law and order which accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But it also says much about the disaffection of modern Russian youth, as well as the lack of preparedness of the authorities to deal with large crowds in the city centre.

Model behaviour

Russians joke that every year, "winter comes unexpectedly", as the snow falls and the local authorities are slow to bring out the snowploughs. This was another example of that mentality.

A car burns in central Moscow
The authorities admit they were not prepared for the level of violence
It's one thing to put up a large screen for fans to watch the match.

But to arrange such an event without ensuring proper safety measures are in place is simply irresponsible.

Even the Prime Minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, commented that the authorities should realise that, "exceptional security measures" should be taken when such events are organised.

It's not as if there haven't been warning signs in the last couple of years.

A significant number of Russian football fans have been modelling themselves on the skinheads who blighted English football in the 1970s.

There's been an increasing number of violent incidents at football matches in Russia.

And last year, one fan was killed when rioting broke out in the capital between fans of the country's top club, Moscow Spartak, and their rivals from Russia's second city, St Petersburg, Zenit.

Nationalistic surge

But the riot also emphasises some of Russia's deeper social problems.


In a country with a serious problem with alcoholism - mainly due to excessive drinking of vodka - beer is now readily available on the streets - it's considered a soft drink

In Soviet times, the threat of punishment was a deterrent.

It's less so now.

In a country with a serious problem with alcoholism - mainly due to excessive drinking of vodka - beer is now readily available on the streets.

Incredibly, it's considered to be a soft drink, even when it has as high as an 8% alcohol content.

There are deep divisions between rich and poor which are so marked in Russian society.

Although the hooligans may have been ready to vent their anger and frustration on any object, it seems that they took particular delight in attacking expensive cars and the windows of the elite - and, to them, inaccessible - boutiques which line the lower reaches of Moscow's main street, Tverskaya.

And recent years have seen a rise in nationalist, xenophobic sentiment.

The past few months have seen a number of attacks on foreigners in the Russian capital.

The problem became especially acute when right-wing groups chose the occasion of the anniversary of Hitler's birthday, in April, to carry out acts against foreigners.

So defeat by Japan - a supposedly weaker footballing nation - watched by a large, mainly young, crowd, well-fuelled by alcohol was a spark that the authorities could - and should - have been prepared for.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
What can be done to curb football violence?Crowd control
What can be done to stop football violence?
See also:

09 Jun 02 | Europe
09 Jun 02 | Japan v Russia
09 Jun 02 | Japan v Russia
01 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
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